Below is a short write-up on the architectural style of our house

Monday, 23 May 2011

First Motor Car in the Southern Hemisphere

First Motor Car in the Southern Hemisphere

As early as 1896, in what is believed to have been the first car in the Southern Hemisphere, Mr John Percy Hess of Pretoria made the decision to import a Benz "Velo" from Benz & Co of Mannheim Germany to South Africa.
During the same year this car was shipped to Port Elizabeth and then transported to Pretoria. It was the start of a business relationship which lead to Mr Hess becoming the sole agent for Benz & Co in South Africa.

On Monday, January 4th at 4pm.1897 at Berea Park in Pretoria, in a widely advertised event (see below), Mr John Percy Hess first drove the car with a Mr A.E. Reno (his business Partner and co-founder of the Pretoria News), and a Dr W.J. Leyds, then State Secretary of the Transvaal, as passengers. President Paul Kruger was also invited to ride on the car, but he preferred to just watch the event. 

In honour of President Paul Kruger attendance a "vierkleur" flag was attached to a pole on the carriage and a gold medal was minted to commemorate this occasion. A large number of spectators who came to see this spectacle had to pay an entrance fee of 2 shillings and 6 pennies.

Prominent Pretoria citizens pose with the Benz on its first outing. Dr Leyds, state secretary of the Transvaal, occupies the rand hand seat, whlie Mr A.E. Reno, co-founder of the Pretoria news, is at the controls.
The following week, the Benz was shown at the Wanderers in Johannesburg and then sold to Mr A.H. Jacobs, a coffee importer. Every customer who purchased 500g of coffee from his shop in Pritchard Street was allowed to see his car. Unfortunately, some months later, this car was destroyed in a fire

Surrounded by "sports" in dashing Wanderers Club headgear, South Africa's first lady motorists seem a trifle apprehensive. The Benz reached its maximum speed of 14 mph round the club enclosure

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Some things you probably didn't know about Pretoria

Based on an article by Simon Williamson –

February 17th, 2010

For the purposes of this article, and at the time of writing, the name of the city I shall use is Pretoria. Should the government bigwigs manage to force through the name change past this publication date, I am probably not going to rush back and edit it. Other than this twisty name, here are ten things I will bet you never knew about Pretoria

1.  Pretoria in South Africa is popularly known as The Jacaranda City due to the enormous number of Jacaranda trees planted as street trees and in parks and gardens. In flowering time the city appears blue/purple in colour when seen from the nearby hills because of all the Jacaranda trees.
The time of year the Jacarandas bloom in Pretoria coincides with the year-end exams at the University of Pretoria and legend has it that if a flower from the Jacaranda tree drops on your head, you will pass all your exams.
Jacaranda trees are not indigenous to South Africa!  Jacaranda trees are native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America (especially Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean

Jacaranda trees   

2. The name of this city is a massive bone of contention as the debate as to whether it should be called Pretoria or Tshwane continues to rage. It seems to have always been the case though. Pretoria was first called Petoriusdorp - a little later, someone suggested the name Pretorium, but finally, to the relief of many the name Pretoria was finally adopted. 

3.  The Union Buildings (Afrikaans: Die Uniegebou) form the official seat of the South African government and also house the offices of the President of South Africa. The imposing buildings are located in Pretoria, atop Meintjieskop at the Northern end of Arcadia.
The Buildings are one of the centres of political life in South Africa; "The Buildings" and "Arcadia" have become metonyms for the South African Government. It has become an iconic landmark of Pretoria and South Africa in general, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city and an emblem of democracy.
Union Buildings 
These buildings, built from light sandstone, were designed by the architect Sir Herbert Baker in the English monumental style and are 285 m long. They have a semi-circular shape, with the two wings at the sides. The clock chimes are identical to those of Big Ben in London.
These buildings are considered by many to be the architect's greatest achievement and a S The building was sited on a disused quarry, which now makes up the Amphitheatre. The statues on top of the towers are Mercury, a mythic Roman messenger and a god of trade. Mercury is holding up the world. The closest suburb to the Union Buildings is Arcadia, which means "Playground Of Gods".
Pretoria as seen from the Union Buildings    

4.   Pretoria has the second largest number of embassies in the world, after Washington, D.C., most of which are located in or near Arcadia.

5.  Depending on where you are from, Pretoria is Johannesburg's outermost suburb, or it is its own city. Those from Pretoria staunchly believe the latter, and are indeed quite correct. However, the exploding expansion of the northern suburbs of Johannesburg has reduced the gap between the two cities to almost nothing, so those of us from eGoli believe that the Jacaranda City is just a part of ours. And we lend them our airport too!

6.  During the Anglo-Boer war, Winston Churchill was imprisoned in the Staats Model Skool in Pretoria, but he managed to escape to Mozambique. Just as well, as he had a little problem which required his attention about 40 years afterwards.
Staats Model Skool

7.  According to Wikipedia, the language spoken most widely in Pretoria is not, in fact, Afrikaans.  - It is Pedi.

8.  The Gautrain (a metro) will soon be in action to move people from Johannesburg to Pretoria and vice-versa without haemorrhaging the highway between the two cities, as happens every morning and afternoon. This new development will also link up the airport to the centre of both cities as well as Sandton, which is virtually a city on its own, anyway. It should be ready shortly after the Fifa World Cup, which is nice and useful not to have when our country is at its fullest.

Image from The Gautrain.

9. One of South Africa's most famous modes of transport is The Blue Train which covers the 1600km track to Cape Town from Pretoria. This luxury experience comes at a premium, but is an excellent way to travel from PTA, although it is rather slow and it's probably just easier to use Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport.

Image of the Blue Train.

10.  Mrs Ples (the nickname for what is considered one of the oldest intact skulls of a distant ancestor of humankind - dating back over 2-million years ago) was discovered in The Cradle of Humankind and now resides in the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria.

Mrs Ples.



111.  Pretoria is the home of the world's biggest soccer ball. As soccer fever hits South Africa during 2010, corporate involvement is increasing. This ball adorns the top of Telkom's Lukasrand tower. The ball is 24 meters across and 8 storeys high and is 100% recyclable.
Photo by Di Faktor on Lunar Raves


12.  Pretoria's main street, Church Street, is the longest urban street in South Africa and one of the longest straight streets in the world. To my knowledge, Cape Town certainly doesn't have many straight streets of which to boast.

Church Street

13.   Pretoria Boys High School, one of the flagship schools of the city, boasts some incredible alumni including current Springbok captain John Smit, Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorious, anti-Apartheid activist and British MP Peter Hain, and ex-Bafana Bafana player Mark Fish.
Pretoria Boys High School main building

Some information about the architectural style of our house

Melvin Residence
We live in a house that was built in 1890 and we are constantly busy with the restoration of this beautiful house.

To the best of our knowledge the house was designed by Wilhelm Johannes
 De Zwaan**, one of the architects from Holland that was brought in by Pres. Paul Kruger

The house is in the Victorian (Queen Anne) architectural style. Queen Anne style (1887-1910) has the following characteristics:

  • Basically, a free form composition with Classical details
  • No rules of proportion (house expands in every direction).
  • Bay windows may jut out from load-bearing walls, sometimes out of a corner at an angle of 45 degrees
  • An ornate porch along one or both sides with rows of  stick-and-ball spindles
  • Complicated roof planes, e.g. gables pointing in several directions
  • Usually has a tower, a cylindrical or polygonal structure topped with a "candle snuffer"
  • Vibrant colors were used to highlight decorative features
  • Eclectic appropriation of ornamental elements from earlier periods, e.g. garlands, columns and carved wood
  • May have triangular wooden gable end perforated with jigsaw ornaments

The sketch above was done by Hannes Meiring*

Mr Meiring describes the building as follows:
“A short distance from the Union Buildings, in Pine Street is a house at present known as Melvin Residence – very different indeed from the Union Buildings. The house reminds one of the ostrich palaces of Oudtshoorn and is a rather amusing conglomeration of styles that were popular at the beginning of the century: decorative wooden railings around the stoep, a near classical gable and ornamental plaster work above the bay window, tall chimneys and a stairway that widens towards the bottom and is decorated with pot plants. Today genuine Victorian houses such as Melvin Residence are once again appreciated.”

*Meiring, Hannes. Pretoria 125: Human & Rousseau Publishers (Pty) Ltd, 1980. ISBN 0 7981 1087 2